TORONTO — The Bruins and Maple Leafs have battled in storied, physical and emotional contests throughout the rivalry’s illustrious history. Nothing’s changed during the first two games of this year’s first-round series.
Things got out of hand during the emotional matchup. Neither party wound up in a good place in the end. Kadri now faces a series-long suspension — pending Monday’s in-person meeting with the NHL Department of Player Safety — for cross-checking Boston’s young forward in the face during the third period of Saturday’s contest. DeBrusk didn’t come out unscathed either after a handful of pundits — mainly north of the border — questioned his leg check on Kadri.
DeBrusk feared a potential concussion following Kadri’s cheap shot. But the Edmonton-born forward stepped on the ice Monday morning ahead of Game 3.
But there’s a different feeling here than just any normal playoff matchup. DeBrusk, whose Game 7 heroics last season sent the Leafs home for the offseason, enters Game 3 as public enemy No. 1 in Toronto following his knee on knee collision with Kadri and the hit on Patrick Marleau that led to the vicious cross check — and subsequent hearing — from the enigmatic Leafs forward.
? Jake DeBrusk is in the lineup tonight for Game 3. He spoke to the media following practice about his status and the Nazem Kadri aftermath. pic.twitter.com/beIF6cFtL2
— Bruins Daily (@BruinsDaily) April 15, 2019
“I feel better today. Better than anticipated, to be honest with you. It’s playoff time as well and I understand that hopefully [I’ll be] ready to go for Game 3,” DeBrusk said.
“I’ve never really been that before — public enemy No. 1. In saying that, I think we are focused on the game tonight as a team. No matter what the distractions were off the ice, we agreed as a group we’d keep it internally and I think that helps, especially when things get out of hand.”
The 22-year-old will take the ice in Game 3 entering a proverbial lion’s den inside Scotiabank Arena on Monday night. A sea of blue sweaters among the 18,000-plus in attendance will undoubtedly be shouting in his direction.
DeBrusk knows he will have to keep his head on a swivel. But the 2015 first-round pick has different plans in mind. All he’s trying to do is help the Bruins take a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series.
“Pretty much just be aware at all times when you’re on the ice,” DeBrusk said after leading the team stretch at the end of the morning skate. “That’s also playoff hockey. You have to understand that it’s a physical game out there. I licked my wounds a little bit after Game 1 so I understand that’s how this series is going to be played. It doesn’t change my game, in a sense it just makes me more aware on the ice.”
The Bruins expect another physical battle against a motivated Maple Leafs squad. Yet, Bruce Cassidy and company know they have to keep their emotions in check.
For them, it is more about being physical enough to win a hockey game and less about settling scores after taking a big hit. They followed that formula in Game 2. They’ll look to do it again in Game 3.
“We don’t talk about that. We will mention that if it goes up, play between the whistles,” Cassidy said. “We’ve got guys that have been around, they understand it’s going to go up. Bergeron, Marchand and Zee have played a lot of playoff series, they’ve been in two Finals, they know the temperature goes up. When we take a hit, you can’t just chase a guy down, you have to have some level of discipline. It’s not about getting a guy back that hits you, there’d be no players left on the ice.”